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Louise Thompson Patterson papers

Identifier: Manuscript Collection No. 869

Scope and Content Note

The Louise Thompson Patterson papers consist of subject files, correspondence, Langston Hughes materials, William L. Patterson papers, personal papers, photographs, and audiovisual materials. The earliest original items include a photograph of Louise, ca. 1909, and a letter from her mother, written in 1917. The most recent items are dated from the early 1990s. The bulk of the collection dates from the early 1930s to the early 1990s, and provides a relatively complete account of Louise's life, interests, and pursuits.

Of particular interest in the Louise Thompson Patterson papers are the materials relating to the 1932 trip to the Soviet Union, including the files on the "Black and White" film project and the Meschrabpom Film Company. Also significant are the materials pertaining to Patterson's relationship with the Communist Party and files relating to her friendship with Langston Hughes from 1932 until his death. The Harlem Renaissance and the Harlem Suitcase Theatre both of which have close ties to Langston Hughes and to Louise Thompson Patterson, also provide information regarding important aspects of Patterson's life.


  • 1909-1999

Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Restrictions on Access

Special restrictions apply: The collection contains some copies of original materials held by other institutions; these copies may not be reproduced without the permission of the owner of the originals.

Collection stored off-site. Researchers must contact the Rose Library in advance to access this collection.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.

Biographical Note

Louise Alone Thompson Patterson was born in Chicago, Illinois, on September 9, 1901. After the divorce of her parents when she was four, Patterson spent her childhood in numerous western cities. She graduated cum laude from the University of California at Berkeley in 1923 with a degree in economics. She worked various jobs and taught for two years before going to New York City to study at the New York School of Social Work (now part of Columbia University). After completing her yearlong study, she began working as a typist for a number of Harlem Renaissance writers and met poet Langston Hughes, starting a friendship that would last until Hughes' death in 1967. She worked on several projects with Hughes and his artistic collaborator Zora Neale Hurston including Mule Bone, the play that eventually caused the disintegration of the Hurston-Hughes partnership. Patterson also typed the manuscript for The Blacker the Berry, a novel by Wallace Thurman, to whom she was married for a short time in 1928-1929.

Louise's apartment in New York, which she shared with Sue Bailey, was a center of activity during the Harlem Renaissance, the Black cultural and artistic movement in the 1920's and 1930's. She became involved in several projects during this time, including the controversial and unrealized Soviet film project "Black and White," which looked at Black life in the United States.

Louise married prominent attorney William L. Patterson in 1940. A member of the American Communist Party, Patterson organized the Civil Rights Congress. He also worked with actor/singer Paul Robeson. Together Patterson and Robeson delivered the petition "We Charge Genocide" before the United Nations, charging the United States Government with genocide against African peoples. Louise was herself an organizer; she led a march in Washington, D.C. for the "Scottsboro Boys" in the 1930s and headed the Angela Davis Defense Fund in the 1970s. During her adulthood, Louise served with the International Workers Order, the Council of African Affairs, and the National Alliance.

Louise Thompson Patterson died in New York City on August 27, 1999.


14.5 linear feet (29 boxes); 1 oversized papers box (OP); 1 bound volume (BV), and; AV Masters: 2 linear ft. (2 boxes)


Papers of African American social activist Louise Thompson Patterson including subject files, correspondence, Langston Hughes materials, personal papers, photographs, and audiovisual materials; as well as some papers relating to her husband, William L. Patterson.

Arrangement Note

Organized into eight series: (1) Subject files, (2) Correspondence, (3) Langston Hughes materials, (4) Writings, (5) William L. Patterson papers, (6) Personal papers (7) Photographs, and (8) Audiovisual materials.


Purchase, 2000

Related Materials in Other Repositories

William L. Patterson papers, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.

Separated Material

Emory University also holds the private library of Louise Thompson Patterson. These materials may be located in the Emory University online catalog by searching for: Louise Alone Thompson Patterson 1901-1999, former owner.

Related Materials in This Repository

Matt N. and Evelyn Graves Crawford papers.


Control level 3


File name: patterson869.doc


Processed by Pat Clark and Raquel Von Cogell, September 19, 2002

Control level 3

File name: patterson869.doc

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Louise Thompson Patterson papers, 1909-1999
Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University
February 9, 2010
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • March 9, 2015: Finding aid revised to include enhanced metadata tagging.

Repository Details

Part of the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library Repository

540 Asbury Circle
Atlanta Georgia 30322 United States